The Imperial Valley high school football season came to an end Friday when Brawley Union High fell to Madison High in the CIF-San Diego Section Division IV semifinals.
I cover the Wildcats on radio and here in the Imperial Valley Press and looking back on 2012, I feel this season was unique because of the way the Wildcats handled adversity.
The most glaring example was the injury to senior quarterback Josh Godinez in the second quarter of a quarterfinal game against Imperial.
Losing your quarterback, who in Godinez’s case was losing an on-field coach with his superb running of the option offense, is a devastating blow.
Yet sophomore Ross Rubio not only stepped in, he ran the offense including big runs on his own and looked like a veteran rather than a deer staring into headlights, leading them to a win.
“We try to coach-up the sophomores as much as the seniors so we are ready for situations like that,” Brawley head coach Jon Self said. “There is of course the question of them being mature enough to do it and in this case Ross was … he did very well.”
Give credit to Self and the Wildcats coaching staff and their commitment to running a “program” where everyone on the lower levels preps for the varsity.
As I watched Godinez go down on the field, I knew Brawley was losing more than just its quarterback.
The Wildcats were also losing their free safety, literally the last defender and the quarterback, as it were, of the defense.
“We missed Josh … it’s almost impossible to replace him because of the little things he does that most people don’t notice, like his leadership. … With one snap or one defensive read he can make a difference in a game,” Self said.
Oh, and the play after Godinez was hurt was a punt, except that Godinez was also Brawley’s punter and placeholder.
Again a sophomore, Andrew Ortiz, stepped up.
“Ortiz and Rubio were on our JV team that was 10-0 and they dominated so there wasn’t a whole lot of punting going on,” Self said. “Honestly, I had looked at Ortiz to be our kicker but he wasn’t ready for the other kicks and he’s an outstanding linebacker and a good fullback so we decided to get him more touches on the JV.”
Brawley had been through this, losing senior fullback Jared Mohamed to a three-game knee injury in their second game of the year and had rallied behind their other running backs.
Credit the offensive line, which has garnered much well-deserved praise.
“There were times that the line did such a good job that any good running back could have run behind them with success,” Self said. “I don’t think the loss to Madison hurt them as much as the realization that they won’t be together anymore.”
As I look back, Self, who coached Brawley to the semifinals, a 10-2 overall record and won the Imperial Valley League in his second year as head coach, deserves credit for the way the Wildcats handled the adversities.
“This season I was able to look back on my first year and correct what I felt were some bad decisions,” Self said. “I had been an assistant for 21 years and I was just trying not to screw up following (John) Bishop because he’s a tough act follow.”
“But from day one this year I was confident with what I was doing,” Self continued. “My personality came out a little bit more this year, I didn’t second guess myself and did it more the way I felt we should.”
I hope in 2013 that the Wildcats face less adversity than this season but I’ve got the feeling if they do, they’ll be fine.